MERS Coronavirus Infections a Larger Threat than Publicized

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MERSReports of MERS infections have been on the decline over the past few years, but according to current news, the problem remains a significant one. Infection control experts reported in a science journal editorial recently that the problem is “significant but underappreciated.” Due to the concentration of vulnerable patients in the hospital, their frequent movement, and the repeated contact between those patients and the many contacts they make each day, hospitals are especially vulnerable for transmission of the virus.

The authors behind the special report traveled to Saudi Arabia last spring to obtain information about a large outbreak of MERS that occurred in a hospital in the eastern region. The same day that the publication was in current science news reports, the World Health Organization released confirmation that a Saudi Arabia doctor had succumbed to MERS. This is especially disturbing news, as the doctor had not been known to be in contact with either a MERS-infected patient or any of the animals thought to spread the disease, nor had he recently traveled outside of Saudi Arabia.

It continues to be unclear how people contract the virus. While the doctor may have come into contact with it outside of the hospital, there is also the possibility that he treated an infected patient who was unaware they had it. A little more than one-third of health-care workers have had no signs of the illness, while a significant number have required intensive care treatment. Of that amount, three or more have died. To date, health-care workers account for a large chunk — about 18% — of the overall number of confirmed cases. There have also been 180 confirmed cases so far, with 77 of that number having died. The most important issue related to MERS, according to the publication, is finding where it is coming from in order to reduce the risk.

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